5 Best Snow-Themed Levels in Video Games

Dark Souls snow

Well, wrap me up in fairy lights and feed me gingerbread until I burst, it’s almost Christmas time.

The festive season brings so much magic; lights, singing, dancing, food, drink, infinitely cringe-worthy games of charades to name but a few examples. It does, however, also bring something else with it: the howling cold, and where do we go when (baby) it’s cold outside? Why, indoors of course. And what’s indoors for our enjoyment? Well, hot chocolate, whiskey, cocktail sausages and other things, but that’s right, video games! You’re two for two – well done, you beautiful bastard.

For me, video games dominate a large part of the holiday season. When I was a kid I remember playing games all of Christmas Eve to make the time pass quicker as I looked forward to an After Eight-fuelled day of celebration after Santa had been (of course I was always good). I always ensured that my gaming marathon had a festive bent, however, and in order to make one’s Christmas gaming experience as jolly as possible one need look no further than the wondrous snow level.

Snow is synonymous with Christmas time, of course, and therefore playing a bunch of snow levels while you nurse a glass of your preferred holiday beverage is a remarkably sweet and simple way to inject a little festivity into your gaming proceedings. What’s the matter? Can’t think of any snow or ice levels? Haven’t ever played a 90’s platformer? Never had a visit from Jingle in Animal Crossing? Don’t worry fam, AJ’s got you covered with this incredibly handy (not to mention handsome) list of snow levels in video games to keep you company as you endeavour to eat your body weight in chocolate. So, my friends, come and join me by the fire. Kick off your shoes and pour yourselves a big glass of Baileys, because it’s snow-time.


Ice Mountain Zone – Sonic Advance

Alright, let’s get some cards on the table right away: Sonic Advance was and still is one of the best Sonic games in existence, one of the greatest platformers ever made, and one of my favourite games of all time. The entire game is a fast-paced, hedgehog-hopping adventure dripping with visual charm and Ice Mountain Zone remains one of the most enjoyable levels in any of Sonic’s outings.

Why? Well, lots of reasons. The visuals are marvellous, as Sonic speeds up and down snow-covered slopes as swirling blizzards threaten to engulf him, and the soundtrack is simple sublime, with a delicate sleigh-bell like score in Act 1 giving way to a more pronounced and upbeat jingle in Act 2. The enemies are unique, coming in the form of little snowman-shaped robots chucking what look like lumps of coal. It’s all capped off by a fiendish boss fight against Dr. Robotnik in an underwater ice cavern, where the player has to navigate the waters while dodging falling icicles to attack the madman’s latest contraption.


Cool, Cool Mountain – Super Mario 64

An uncontroversial choice, I know, but you really can’t argue with a classic. Cool, Cool Mountain remains one of the finest examples of just how magical the humble snow level can be. The snow crunches under Mario’s feet as he scurries around in search of coins and secrets, while the whistling wind and flurrying snow make traversing the mountain all the more challenging.

This level sees Mario racing a penguin down a giant ice-slide (complete with a ridiculously catchy background song) in competition for a Power Star, finding a body for a snowman, learning the art of the wall-jump, and returning a lost penguin to their mama. Penguins are a theme, ok? You owe it to yourself to play this one.


The Painted World of Ariamis – Dark Souls

In the mood for something a bit more sombre? No problem, how about a snow-themed jaunt into the howling wastes of From Software’s 2011 apocalyptic suicide mission, Dark Souls? The Painted World of Ariamis is an optional area accessed using the Peculiar Doll via a ludicrously large painting in a hall in Anor Londo.

Step through the painting and you’re whisked away to a decrepit, snow-covered ruin infested with Hollows where you can look forward to fighting your way through the hoard as you attempt to gather treasure and unravel the mysteries of the bizarre world and its inhabitants. The journey will take you up a crumbling spire into a battleground of airborne threats, into an underground labyrinth of intertwining tunnels rife with enemies who move fast and hit hard, and out into a grand courtyard defended by the spirits of once proud soldiers. What’s wrong? Not very festive? Well, this game is incredibly difficult so chances are your chestnuts will be roasting on an open fire before long.


Snowpeak Ruins – The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

The Legend of Zelda series is a pronounced fan of the snow level, and the Snowpeak Ruins from Twilight Princess stand out as a particularly shining example. Link gains access to the Ruins after having scaled a snowy mountain in his wolf form, tracking scents and battling enemies, before snowboarding down a winding slope as he follows an actual yeti to the mansion which comprises the Snowpeak Ruins and the game’s fifth dungeon. The mansion itself has an eerie beauty to it, compounded by a spooky musical score and some truly enchanting visuals.

The fact that it’s rife with hazards does little to dispel the spookiness, as the player can look forward to dealing with ice-soldiers, snow-wolves, cannon fire and a giant golem-knight wielding an outrageous ball and chain which becomes Link’s signature gadget for the area should the player avoid being squished long enough to actually defeat the knight. Add to that a handful of imaginative puzzles and what amounts to a demonic possession-themed boss fight and you have one of the most memorable levels in any Zelda game, and one of the best snow levels you’ll ever play. There’s also soup!


Basically the entire month of December – Animal Crossing: New Leaf


Our final entry isn’t just snow-themed, it’s actually Christmas-themed. Animal Crossing really is magical during the holiday season, and Animal Crossing: New Leaf on the 3DS is no exception, as the snow begins to fall in early December and residents happily strike up festive chatter as you mooch about the town with coffee in hand. Snowmen can be built, special items can be collected, rare bugs and fish can be caught, rooms can be decorated with trees and stockings,and presents can be sent as you count down the days until Toy Day and a visit from Jingle the Reindeer.

The snow flurries and twinkling fairy lights all go together to create a wonderfully charming visual aesthetic which manages to be clean and crisp while still being vibrant and colourful. The sound design is as chipper as it gets, with an effective mixture of relaxing and upbeat jingles forming the soundtrack to your life as you amble home through the snow to your extortionately expensive fireplace and comfy sofa. Even as you move past Christmas the game retains its holiday spirit, with events happening right through to a marvellous firework display to ring in the new year. Animal Crossing is the perfect game for the holiday season, as its incredibly relaxing and relentlessly upbeat attitude make it the perfect company for when you’ve become more food than person.

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